by Bob Fitrakis
Building community begins with the assumption that everyone belongs, nobody is to be excluded. Campus Partners’ final plan submitted last week is the opposite: it’s about economic and class apartheid; of favoring chain restaurants and corporate anchor stores over independent small businesses.
The plan seeks to build a fortressed community with “gateways,” “calming zones,” and “defensible street closures.” This is arrogance and snobbery. It’s an attempt to protect the “right” people and keep the “wrong” people out. This is why the Frumpies on the Campus Partners staff (Formerly Radical Upwardly Mobile Professionals) and their apologists are personalizing their attacks against me. I’m sure they’ve got dozens of affidavits proving that I soaped myself excessively in the shower in ninth grade, but these attacks don’t change the substance of their “master plan” for the campus master race. For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s available at a few campus area libraries and I’ve included page references.
Barry Humphries and his Frumpies have decided that they don’t like the campus area as it is, so they want to knock it down and bring Disneyland planning to the area. And I don’t exaggerate here, they state: “…The remaining 50 percent of the structures in the [High Street] corridor lack significant detail for reuse potential when the cost of renovation or their ability to provide appropriately sized retail floor plates is considered.” (15-9) They don’t like the businesses in these buildings, and they don’t adapt well to suburban strip mall taste and requirements, so they’ll be knocked down if they’re not accidentally burnt down.
They have three themes. First, in south campus where Papa Joe’s conveniently went up in flames, they want shopping and dining. They envision “better quality” restaurants (pg. 15-6), “higher caliber” bars (pg. 15-10), and nifty stores like “The Gap” or “The Limited” (pg. 15-6). Excuse me, if the Gap or the Limited want to come into the area, let them do it with their own resources and not with public welfare checks provided through Campus Partners. Oh yeah, they also think the area needs “larger record stores” (pg. 15-7). This is absurd. The campus area is home to the few remaining independent music stores in Columbus. Any attempt to drive out the likes of Used Kids would be a cultural crime against humanity.
Second, the Partners want “to create an art theme at 15th and High.” This will include a new performing arts center on the east side of High, presumably to compliment the already existing Wexner Center and Mershon Auditorium across the street. It’s also a good excuse to tear down a bunch of buildings that are being used improperly by the riff-raff in the neighborhood, according to Campus Partners’ criteria.
Third, and even more absurd, the Partners are planning an “international” theme for the Lane-High area. Their plan will destroy perhaps the most ethnically diverse neighborhood strip in all of Ohio: name another strip in Ohio that has affordable real Chinese, Indian, Korean, Ethiopian, and Mexican restaurants in such close proximity. Most likely they will remove this actually existing cultural diversity and replace it with the food court at Lane Avenue Shopping Center, or Chi-Chi’s.
As Randy Morrison of the Godman Guild pointed out in his comments on the Campus Partners plan, the plan requires massive “displacement” and another plan is needed to “mitigate” this. Campus Partners is undertaking an ethnic and economic cleansing of the university district. This sounds like the preferences of middle-aged, middle-class former students, not the actual students who have different tastes and limited incomes.
The plan is so vile and pernicious that Barry Humphries, the infamous demolition man from the Battelle neighborhood, needed to hire Frumpies to cover the destruction of some of the last remaining culturally diverse “free spaces” from the student movement of the 1960s. Those who built bridges 25 years ago to other ethnic and racial communities are now using their progressive credentials to blow them up. While muttering to themselves that they are still “stardust and golden” they are destroying the campus area in order to save it.
A basic definition of theft is taking something that doesn’t belong to you. Campus Partners is planning legally sanctioned criminal activity. Their Disneyesque centralized planning will destroy businesses and private property they deem unworthy. It will eradicate the organically grown culture, flavor, character and mystique of the campus area and replace it with plastic suburban sterility. They now look to the Ohio State Board of Trustees for their blessing–a board whose membership constitutes Ohio’s “power elite,” essentially the same class of people who deforested Franklin Park, sterilized the North Market and homogenized the Ohio State Fair. But this will be their greatest criminal caper.
It’s not too late to stop the insanity. People opposed to this plan need to rise up and use any means necessary to make your voices heard.